Lenten Reader -- Day 34
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14) ----------
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:2-3)
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.... I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:1, 4-5)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are. (1 Corinthians 1:27-28)
It is nearly Easter, and we will hang crosses on the walls of our homes and churches; we may decorate some with flowers and ribbons. But what is done to our faith when we do?
With all of our present-day associations with the cross -- a sign of glory, an object of Christian identification and adoration – it is almost impossible to see it for what it actually was. And when we fail to understand the cross, we fail to properly estimate what our Lord suffered on our behalf: Shame.
Jesus despised the cross. To even speak of the cross in his time was disgusting. Gallows, guillotine, electric chair. We would never hang these things on our walls or sing songs about them. But the cross was worse than any of these. It was a punishment reserved for the worst of the worst. It was designed to bring about the utmost torture to those not even worthy to serve as slaves.
So to say that Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame,” is not to say “poor Jesus.” It is to say that Jesus so loved us and so submitted to the Father that he would not only endure torment, but also ignominy, public humiliation, which carries with it a kind of pain no one can imagine, save those who have endured it themselves.
And when it was over, he was exalted to the highest place of dignity and honor in the universe, so that we would one day witness his glory and also share in it.
Lord of Glory, by your love and grace you emptied yourself by taking the form of a servant, embracing my shame and suffering an ignominious and tortuous death on a cross. Such amazing love is utterly incomprehensible to me, but you endured the shame of the cross because you could see beyond it to the joy that was set before you. Likewise, teach me to view things from an eternal rather than a temporal perspective, knowing that you promise to lift up all those who humble themselves before you, in due time. Remind me that the path to glory often requires a sojourn through travail. Show me your glory in increasing measure, as I seek to follow you in all my ways. Then I will know, with greater clarity, that serving you is true freedom, that your yoke is light, and that your cross is glorious. In your name I pray. Amen.